Body Condition Scoring of Ewes

by Bas van Luijk,

Bas is the Head Veterinarian at East Coast Farm Vets

June 2022

Body Condition Scoring (BCS) is a relatively quick and easy way of assessing the amount of body fat or condition of your ewes. It is a low cost management tool which can increase ewe productivity and flock profitability.

Body condition scoring of your flock can aid in boosting your profits when factored in at key times. Being able to decipher between stock that is above a BSC 3 or below could possibly be the single most important factor influencing the profitability by:

  • Increasing the kilograms of lamb weaned per hectare

  • Increasing the weaning weight per lamb

  • Increasing the number of lambs per hectare

Condition scoring is based on a scale of 1-5, 1 being very skinny and 5 being very fat.

Condition scores of 1 and 2 indicate under feeding and low production. This can be seen in an animal where the vertical (spine) and horizontal (lumbar) are prominent and sharp and where the loin muscle is very thin with no fat cover (score 1). A score 2 ewe is detectable where their vertical and horizontal lines are prominent but smooth but it’s still possible to press the fingers under.

Condition scores 3 and 4 indicates good feeding and high production. A score 3 ewe’s spine and loin is smooth and rounded and the bone can only be felt with pressure. The loin muscle is full, with a moderate fat cover. A score 4 ewe is where the vertical processes are only detectable as a line and the loin muscles are full and have a thick covering of fat.

Body condition scoring regularly can also provide other advantages:

  • Helps you split your mobs and feed them appropriately to boost production and increase conception rates

  • Let’s you get more out of the same amount of feed by targeting those that need it most

  • Allows you to recognise which ewes need preferential feeding, which can be maintained and which ewes need to be culled.

There are three key times to body condition score your ewes: at weaning, pre-mating and scanning. Then there are two important parts. The first part is identifying the poorer condition ewes; the second part is having a plan for what you will do with those animals you identify.

Whatever the season, the main goal is to identify those lower scoring ewes and get their condition up. The target is to keep all of your flock sitting at BCS 3 or above all year round.

Talk to your vet and work through an animal health plan to ensure you have a plan in place year round.

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